Like most teenage boys, I have acne. The only difference is that I’m a woman in my mid-twenties with zero changes happening in my voice.
I do, however, get acne. Yay for those of you that relate!
So in an attempt to well… fix it… I decided to change my face wash. I changed to a Neutrogena scrub and cleanser. I started using the scrub at night and the cleanser in the morning.
Two days later, I noticed my eyes were a little swollen. But I was in LA for the 4th of July having an awesome time with my friends and figured it was simply a product of lack of sleep and water.
In a precautionary effort before bed, I took Benadryl, iced my eyes, drank a bunch of water, and then went to sleep.
I woke up 50x worse. My eyes were so swollen – and getting more swollen by the minute – that I could barely see. And it wasn’t just my eyes, it was now my whole face.
I am deliberately not posting the photo here because I don’t need to scare you, but I will describe how I looked:
I looked like a post-diet sumo wrestler who hasn’t lost his face fat yet. You know those scrunchy dogs with so many eye wrinkles and folds that they can’t really see? Ya, that in human form. I literally looked like the Rock punched me square in the face and then painted parts of my face pink.
You get the picture.
So it was 6 a.m. and I was obviously awake, breathing fine, feeling fine (minus the face), and made the instant decision to head to the ER. I arrived and was seen by a doctor who immediately asked about my skincare regime. She knew exactly what was going on.
Dr.: Have you switched skincare lines recently?
Me: Yes. To Neutrogena. My acne is acting up.
Dr.: Does your new face wash have salicylic acid in it? 2%?
Me: Yes. Exactly.
Dr.: Stop it. Immediately. You did everything right. From the Benadryl to the ice to coming in this morning first thing. Now get yourself a calm face wash and lotion and throw that other stuff out.
This was the first time I’ve heard of someone reacting to salicylic acid. And of course that someone was me, but that’s besides the point. Do you know someone that has had a moderate – severe reaction to it? I suppose my lack of insight into this jolted my nerves.
A few hours later I consulted a dermatologist regarding this incident. She thought it was probably a fragrance or dye in the face wash that was particularly nasty to my skin. To me – this made a little more sense.
Either way, everything ended up just fine.
She gave me a 4-day steroid (Prednisone), told me to take Benadryl before bed, hydrocortisone cream (1%) for when I itch (avoid the eyes), put cold compresses, hydrate, and relax.
She also recommended Trader Joe’s gentle face wash and lotion to replace my other stuff.
After picking up the goods from Trader Joe’s and CVS, I was exhausted. But I realized something incredibly important:
Traveler’s Insurance should be the first point of research for anyone with food allergies.
I didn’t hesitate going to the ER. Maybe it’s because I value my health over my wallet, or maybe it’s simply because I have traveler’s insurance & therefore feel protected.
These kinds of incidents happen and they’re scary – especially when alone. But having an insurance policy that will cover you for the unexpected is the single most important travel item a person can have. Especially a person with allergies.